JOHANNESBURG - Although it came about more by accident than design, the presence of the Proteas in a domestic competition this season will prove hugely beneficial to South African cricket in the next few years.
Titans coach Mark Boucher said after Saturday night’s thumping seven wicket victory for his side over the Dolphins, that while the defence of the RamSlam T20 Challenge title was a highlight so was witnessing the interaction between some of the superstar Proteas players and the younger members of his Titans squad.
“I’m happy they contributed, it’s easy as a Protea to come in and not add value. Our guys came in and they added massive value. The amount of communication between AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and a couple of our younger bowlers and batters ...they’ve learnt a lot. We’ve won a trophy, but those players have also learnt a lot in this period that they’ve been together.”
They’d have learned to celebrate properly too on Saturday night as the Titans became the first team to win the T20 franchise trophy three years in a row.
The Titans’ big names, De Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, and Steyn all played important roles in this season’s success, but on Saturday night it was the quick bowlers, particularly Chris Morris (4/13) and Lungi Ngidi who grabbed the spotlight.
“In the (pre-match) warm-up I felt rubbish,” Morris acknowledged, “my back felt stiff, nothing felt right. (But) for some reason it just clicked, I ran in, bowled my first ball, it hit the deck and it swung ...very lucky it came out beautifully.”
Morris claimed the wicket of Morne van Wyk with his second ball and Vaughn van Jaarsveld with his eighth as the Titans turned on the screw, eventually dismissing the Dolphins for 100 in the 19th over.
They subsequently chased down the target for the loss of just three wickets with 58 balls to spare.
Fellow quick Ngidi, produced another top drawer performance finishing with 2/15, and the manner in which he hit the deck, bowling with aggression and some cute variety bodes well for his continuing development as one of the country’s top young fast bowlers.
“Lungi will be playing for South Africa for many years. He’s got a very good brain on him. The pressure never left the Dolphins.”
Morris admitted it felt good to perform as well as they did following a somewhat controversial week in which the decision to play a slightly weaker side in Durban last week at the end of the round-robin phase caused some raised eyebrows.
Boucher believes that the Titans’s performances in the semi-final and the final proved the decision to rest some of the first-team starters was the correct one.
“I don’t get paid to look after other franchises, I get paid to look after the Titans,” he said. “There’s a lot of communication within the squad; I ask the guys how they feel, if they’re a bit tired, I sent those guys back, they missed the Durban game, they were happy they’d pick themselves up, train (in Centurion) and prepare properly for a game which was a big semi-final.
“I wasn’t worried about what was said, what upset me was the way in which it was said, to insinuate that we were throwing games.
"I’d never walk onto the field, even take this job, if I was prepared to throw a game. That upset me quite a bit. I’ll defend that decision until I’m blue in the face, but that’s gone now, hopefully, you look at it now, and see it was the right decision.”
It was Boucher’s third title in just his second year as the franchise’s coach, and among the most dominant overall efforts in the competition’s history.
They also increased their lead as the most successful side since South African cricket adopted the franchise system, with Saturday night’s victory their 14th outright championship.
The Cobras are next best with nine outright titles.
“We can’t rest on our laurels here, we set high standards, we want to play in semis, finals, high pressure games. The standard is so high, there’s a lot of mentorship in the dressing room. Complacency is not allowed.”